Acrylics Drying Too Quickly? Here's Some Solutions:

Acrylics are wonderful to paint with because of its' versatility, durability, vibrant colors and ease of use. It's a great choice for the novice to the professional painter. I love how they dry quicker and allow for so much layering of colors. I also like how acrylics can be mixed with a lot of different art mediums, like colored pencil, charcoal, paper and so on, creating some spectacular and original works. However, it does have some disadvantages, such as drying too quickly at the worst time.  It can be a real pain when you're wanting to blend colors in larger areas of your canvas and find the paint has already set. So, here are some tips below that I've found help me work around this problem.

Masterson Sta-Wet Premiere Palette

When I first started painting, I used a plastic bowl cover or a paper plate for my palette. I found that the paint dried too quickly and when I was ready to load up my brush, the paint had become thick and chunky. Yuck! So I found this wonderful product that has been a game changer for me.

The Masterson Sta-Wet palette system is such a great money saver and time saver. The Sta-Wet palette is a plastic tray that combines a sponge and palette paper for keeping acrylic paints wetter longer. When the lid is sealed tightly, the paint can stay moist for days or even weeks. This system lets me continue painting after many breaks or even over days without having to squirt out more paint and wasting time and money. The paint is always ready to go when I am. 

Spray Bottle

I often use a spray bottle with water to refresh my palette, so the colors stay wetter when I'm painting for a longer period. All that is needed are one to two spritz of water to keep the paint the perfect consistency.  Spray your canvas as well if you're working in a larger area so the paint can flow easier.

Use Gesso

To allow the paint to flow easier, you need at least two good coats of gesso on your canvas before you even start painting. Gesso is similar to white acrylic paint but it dries hard, making the surface more stiff and ready to accept acrylic paints. Without applying gesso, your paint would soak into the weave of the canvas and dry faster. Your paint would also require more coats of paint and your colors would be unevenly applied. You would also struggle to blend and create brilliant layering effects.

Paint Smaller Sections

When I want to blend wet-into-wet, painting in small sections of the canvas is helpful. For example, when painting a flower edge that is to be blended into a background, I will rewet the background and then blend the flower color into it, creating a smooth, soft edge. (You can see this technique on the Wild Roses video tutorial on my YouTube channel at the 25-minute mark). I often rewet a dried area with the same color and then paint over by blending or smearing the new color, creating an oil painted effect. I know this technique takes longer but by layering paint and blending this way, the colors appear richer and more dimensional. Another way I blend wet-into-wet is by allowing the original color to stay on the brush (without cleaning it) and then immediately dip it into another color from the palette and then blend them next to each other on the canvas. You can see this technique in just about all my tutorials. You just have to be careful not to have too much of the original color left on your brush. Otherwise, it will get muddy looking and will be hard to control.

Add Medium to Your Paint

Another thing you could do is mix in a slow drying medium to your paints while on the palette. I've tried a couple but I found using water and working in smaller areas has helped me blend colors easier. You can find some recommendations below. Just mix them one to one with your colors before painting onto your canvas. However, do not mix too much medium because it will make your colors too transparent and sometimes not dry thoroughly.

  • Liquitex Matte Medium
  • Golden Matte Medium
  • Golden Satin Glazing Liquid
  • Winsor & Newton Slow Drying Medium

Note: These can be great additives to your acrylics for creating glazing or "watering down" your colors to create transparent colors. If you'd like to see some of these techniques in action, watch my painting process on my YouTube channel. Thanks!